Difficult hike to a small mountain lake offering great panoramic views of Tusheti.
This walk takes you to Oreti lake, nestled on the mountain slopes south of Omalo. From the lake, you will have great panoramic views of whole Tusheti.
Just keep in mind that the water level of the lake varies during the summer. The ideal period to visit is the early summer, if you come in September, you may find only a muddy hole.
Photos of the lake I used were taken at the end of July.
Oreti lake is a great destination for a horse trip. In a day, you can comfortably reach it from Omalo and return.
If you have more time, you can camp by the lake and return on the second day; sunrise over there must be breathtaking.
Duration: 9 hours
Long hike with a considerable change of elevation.
How to get to Omalo:
There is no public transport to Tusheti. To get to Omalo, you will need to hire a driver with 4WD. First get to Kvemo Alvani village - this can be done by marshrutka or a taxi. Marshrutka departs from Ortachala bus station in Tbilisi at 9.am and two hours later arrives at Alvani (price 7 GEL). Just confirm with the driver that he is going all the way to Alvani, they sometimes try to drop passengers in Telavi in order to hire them another taxi to Alvani (or sell them an overpriced jeep).
These local drivers usually approach the tourists and offer them to arrange the transport to Tusheti. If your driver doesn't, you will need to ask around for a driver - it shouldn't be too hard. The trip usually takes 5 hours and costs 250 GEL for the whole jeep (that means 50 GEL per passenger).
Hikers may want to start closer to the lake as the roundtrip from Omalo takes 28 km.
I suggest finding some good soul to drive you to the bridge over Alazani or Kumelaurta village. This way you will skip the quite boring walk on the car road.
How to leave Omalo:
Again, you will need to hire a jeep with a driver. Price should be the same as what you paid to get there.
Description of the route
The hike starts in Lower Omalo. Head from the village through the meadow to the south, towards the car road.
Once you reach it, follow it for a few kilometers while it in serpentines descends to the Alazani river.
Finally, you will come to the bridge. Cross the river and turn left, in the direction of Kumelaurta village.
Follow a dirt road - after a while, it takes almost 180° turn and a meadow appears to the left. Leave the road, turn left and hike up, towards the forest.
There is no path on the pasture, but it starts once you reach the trees.
Then comes the most difficult path of the hike - climbing onto the ridge. Valleys of Tusheti are often steepest at the bottom and this one is no exception.
On a short section, you need to overcome quite a big elevation, about 400 meters. You are climbing in a nice pine forest with very limited views.
Everything gets much easier once you make it to the top. Follow now almost flat trail and soon you will come to a shepherds hut.
From here, continue to the south. You are hiking towards the main ridge, forming the border with Russia.
The trail is now slowly rising through a forest, interrupted by series of beautiful meadows. You also have a great view of surrounding mountains.
When you finally leave trees behind, the ridge ahead starts rising too steeply and you have to pick a side.
Turn left and enter fields of rhododendrons (there is also an info panel, visible from a great distance).
They bloom in June - another reason to visit early in the summer.
The trail passes these fields and is very easy to follow. Finally, you will cross a small stream, walk a bit uphill and voila - the lake is right ahead of you!
Rest for a while, refill your water from the stream and if you don´t plan to camp, it´s time head back.
Return the same way you came or you can use alternative route ending in Khiso village. I haven´t tried it but heard it´s really nice.